- The Washington Times - Friday, September 22, 2006

Vatican gets review of U.S. seminaries

A Vatican-ordered review of Roman Catholic seminaries in the United States has been completed and the results sent to Rome, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says.

Vatican officials sought the evaluation, in response to the clergy sex-abuse crisis, to look for anything that contributed to the scandal that erupted in 2002 and battered the church.

Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the bishops’ conference, said this month that the visits to the nation’s seminaries and houses of formation for priests were finished July 14 and the reports were sent to the Vatican.

The agency overseeing the assessment, the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education, is reviewing the data. It was not known how much of the findings will be made public.

The bishops and seminary staff who conducted the on-site reviews gave special attention to what seminarians are taught about chastity and celibacy. The Vatican also directed the evaluators to look for “evidence of homosexuality” in the schools.

Studies commissioned by the bishops’ conference have found that the majority of known victims of abuse by priests in the past 50 years were adolescent boys. In response, some Catholics have blamed homosexual clergy for the scandal; experts on sex offenders contend homosexuals are no more likely than heterosexuals to molest children.

The Congregation for Catholic Education issued a document last year emphasizing church opposition to homosexual candidates for the priesthood, advising that men with “deep-seated” homosexual tendencies or who “support so-called gay culture” shouldn’t be admitted to seminary or ordained.

8th Episcopal diocese rejects national leader

PEORIA, Ill. — An eighth conservative Episcopal diocese is rejecting the authority of the incoming head of the denomination and asking for oversight from another Anglican leader.

The Diocese of Quincy, based in Peoria, voted last Saturday that it would not accept the leadership of Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori, who supports homosexual relationships. Bishop Jefferts Schori, the first woman to lead the denomination, will be installed Nov. 4.

The eight dioceses are asking Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of the global Anglican Communion, to assign them an Anglican leader who shares their traditional views. The Episcopal Church is the Anglican branch in the United States.

The other protesting dioceses are Dallas; Central Florida; Fort Worth, Texas; Fresno, Calif.; Pittsburgh; Springfield, Ill., and South Carolina.

All the dioceses are members of the Anglican Communion Network, which represents 10 Episcopal dioceses and many parishes with traditional views of the Bible and sexuality.

The network formed after the Episcopal Church confirmed its first openly homosexual bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, in 2003.

Separately, one of the largest Episcopal parishes in the country, which opposes ordaining homosexuals, said it will pay the Diocese of Dallas $1.2 million as it leaves the denomination.

Christ Church, formerly Christ Church Episcopal, will pay the lump sum up front and will continue paying down the $6.8 million of debt on parish property.

Jill Kinsella, a spokeswoman for Christ Church, said Dallas Bishop James M. Stanton, who shares the conservative views of the Plano, Texas, congregation, has arranged for the church to be supervised temporarily by an Anglican leader in Peru. Christ Church, which has about 2,200 worshippers each weekend, plans to remain in the Anglican Communion.

In a letter to the world’s Anglicans released last Saturday, Archbishop Williams urged Episcopalian conservatives to remain patient as he tries to keep the communion unified.

“I continue to hope that colleagues will not take it for granted that there is a rapid short-term solution that will remove our problems or simplify our relationships for good and all without the essential element of personal, probing conversation,” the archbishop wrote.

Southern Baptist president urges unity

FORT WORTH, Texas — The new president of the Southern Baptist convention is calling for unity as divisions surface over the future of the denomination.

“It’s time that we come together, realizing that we are Jesus’ people, and that we believe in the Word of God,” said the Rev. Frank Page, in a Sept. 14 chapel sermon at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“And while we may not always agree with various interpretations, we stand as one people in Jesus Christ in commitment to His word,” he said, according to Baptist Press.

Conservatives have had tight control over the nation’s largest Protestant denomination for more than a decade. But some younger conservatives have been dismayed by the way the denomination’s leaders have handled internal disagreements.

Those younger conservatives helped elect Mr. Page this past June in a rare contested race at the Southern Baptist annual meeting.

“There are factions across our convention now … that are so distinct, so despairing, that there is literally no fellowship within some of the groups,” said Mr. Page, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C. “That burdens my heart deeply.”

He urged the 16.3 million Southern Baptists to look outward instead of focusing on internal issues. Too many Southern Baptist churches in the United States have stagnating or declining membership, Mr. Page said. Southern Baptists must seek new ways to reach out to others while remaining “biblically sound” in doctrine and action.

“If we do not start asking the question about … relevancy, then we are going to lose it all,” Mr. Page said. “And it is all going to be a moot point, for our churches will die.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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